"Everything changes, everything stays the same"
Cowbird was a two-day symposium put together by my old university in Norwich, in memory of Nic Hughes. Guests were invited to talk about Graphic Design (design, graphics, visual communication, whatever you want to call it) in a world where digital and analogue communication channels are available to us simultaneously, separately, and at the same time.
The spectrum of skills brought to the table by the speakers gives an indication of the ambition of the symposium, and as a result I’ll list them all in full:
Hamish Muir - Outcast Editions, 8vo
Craig Oldham - Design by Music
Vivian Rosenthal - Goldrun
Tom Roope - The Rumpus Room
Michael C. Place - Build
Matt Ward - DWFE
Denise Wilton - Berg
Patrick Burgoyne - Creative Review
Andy Stevens - Graphic Thought Facility
Vera-Maria Glahn - Field
All excellently chaired by Adrian Shaughnessy.
As a result of this roster the audience went through a mix of awe, inspiration, knowledge and probably a little bit of fear.
It was nice to see a collection of talks that, despite their different subject matter, were sensitive to the context of the symposium and as such linked to one another in some way. Whether or not this was intentional, I’m not sure, but there were definitely themes that appeared as the days played out.
Hamish Muir talked about the point at which a job is at the printers as being the most important part of a project, because of how much of the outcome is decided by this part of the process. And Tom Roope talked about moderation in the same way. In some of his projects where UGC played a central role, the part where the work is “made” is essentially out of the designers hands. Craig Oldham pointed out that the book is itself a piece of technology that changed the world, just in the same way as we see it’s role being changed by different technology today. This was echoed by Patrick Burgoyne on day two, (the quote at the beginning of this post was the title of his talk) as he looked at the changes Creative Review has faced, and introduced, during his time as editor.
There are so many things that I could comment on, and so many excellent quotes from all of the speakers, but it would be far to exhaustive to document them all here. It was a very well put together symposium with a theme that showed the direction design can, and probably will go. The stories were thought provoking, and the work was exciting, each revealing a different approach to visual communication in an ever-connected world.
Personally, I’d like to thank Andy Campbell for putting the pieces together and, of course, Nic Hughes. I think he would have really enjoyed Cowbird.